EU watchdog worries about how banks add up risks

Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:20am EST
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By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Regulatory action may be needed to end variations in the ways banks add up the risks on their books to determine how big their capital buffers should be, the European Banking Authority said.

As regulators put in place tougher capital requirements, known as Basel III, following the 2007-09 financial crisis, they want to be sure calculations used by banks to meet them are sound.

Faith in figures that banks publish is seen as core to restoring investor and public trust in the financial sector.

The EBA released interim results on Tuesday of its probe into risk-weighted assets on the main banking books of 89 banks, which it did not name, from 16 European Union countries.

It found material differences between banks, with half caused by different regulatory approaches and the structure of a bank's loan portfolio, and the other half because of the way banks calibrated in-house financial models for adding up risks.

Greater disclosure will not be enough to ease concerns raised by investors and market analysts on the reliability of banks' calculations, EBA chairman Andrea Enria said.

Taking the top 20 banks in its study, the EBA said the difference between the maximum and minimum values for risk was 46 percent.

Enria said that was "significant and calls for further investigations and possibly policy solutions".   Continued...

A picture illustration taken with the multiple exposure function of the camera shows a one Euro coin and a map of Europe, January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach